The North is one of the constituent regions of Westeros and was a sovereign kingdom before the War of Conquest. The region covers the entire area south of the Wall and north of the Neck. The North has been ruled by House Stark for thousands of years from the castle known as Winterfell. Other notable houses of the region include Bolton, Umber, Karstark, and Manderly. Bastards born in the North are given the surname Snow.
'The North' is vast in size, it is the largest of the Seven Kingdoms regions, nearly as large as the the other six kingdoms combined. The region is sparsely populated, with vast wilderness, forests, pine-covered hills and snow-capped mountains, speckled with tiny villages and holdfasts. Its climate is cold and harsh in the winter and occasionally it will snow even in the summer.
The North has two major land barriers. First, to the north is the Wall, home of the Night's Watch, who defend its northern border from the wildling threat from the Beyond the Wall. Second, to the south is the triangle of impassable bogs and marshes of the Neck. The narrowness of the region and the difficulty of its terrain make it a natural border for the North, and Moat Cailin, a formidable fortress, overlooks the only causeway through, and protects it from invasion. It is here the Kings in the North held off countless southron invasions.
The North is bound on each side by major seas: the Shivering Sea to the east and the Sunset Sea to the west. Scattered along the eastern and western shores are numerous islands, both inhabited and uninhabited. Two major rivers cut through the lands, the White Knife that runs to the bustling port of White Harbor allowing trade up river to Winterfell, and the Last River that runs towards Last Hearth.
- Winterfell, a large castle located at the center of the North, the ancestral seat of House Stark.
- White Harbor, one of the major cities of the Seven Kingdoms and the main port city of the North.
- The Neck, an isthmus forming the border with the South. It is a vast swamp, home to the crannogmen, features the ruined castle Moat Cailin, and is a natural location to mount a defense against southron invasions.
- The Wall, a colossal fortification that protects the north from the wild-lands beyond. Separated from The North proper by The Gift, lands of the Night's Watch.
- Skagos, a remote island in the Shivering Sea. Said to be inhabited by cannibals and unicorns.
- The Wolfswood, a vast expanse of forest stretching from Winterfell to the Stony Shore of the region's west coast.
- The Barrowlands, a hilly plain dotted with the barrows of the First Men.
- The Grey Cliffs, a series of cliffs in the North along the shore of the Narrow Sea, east of Karhold.
- The Rills, an area in the North west of the Barrowlands and east of the Stony Shore.
The Northmen are nearly all descended from the First Men. They are known as a straight forward, hardy, tough breed who hold the comforts of the south in disdain. Most of them still follow the Old Gods and their weirwood trees, and have little inclination for the new gods. There are a few exceptions, like House Manderly of White Harbor, who are blood of the Andals and keep to the Faith of the Seven. The North terrain and climate don't easily yield the necessities of daily life.
The constant cold and the iron grip of winter set apart the northerners from the people of the kingdoms south of the Neck. Their whole life rests on the fact that winter is coming and they have to prepare themselves in order to survive it. In such an environment there is no place for hollow courtesies, courtly rituals, nor fancy culture and tourneys. Never having been in touch much with the southron customs, the people, and especially the Starks, live by a very strict code of honor not tainted by the intrigue that marks the southron courts. The northmen have long memories. A lord who does not seek his rightful vengeance threatens to have his own men turn on him.
Some of the Northmen live in remote, distant areas where they act as little more than clans and tribes of savage warriors. Even these remote folk, such as the crannogmen, the Northern mountain clans and the Skagosi, are vassals of the Starks, and are allowed to maintain their own ways and traditions as long as they remain loyal to Winterfell.
Heraldry in the North is significantly simpler than that in the South, showing the lesser influence that chivalry has had there; and due to its religious aspect, most northmen refuse to take holy orders and thus cannot become knights. Nevertheless, Northmen do hold the Night's Watch in high regard.
The North is particularly badly affected during the long winters, with thousands of people killed and famine not an uncommon occurrence due to poor harvests before winter or the inability to raise crops during the longer winters that last for for years on end, outside of special "glass gardens" and castles built on or near hot springs, like Winterfell, or volcanic vents, like the Dreadfort.
Once autumn is declared by the maesters, the lords of the North store away a part of the grain they have harvested. How much is a matter of choice; between one fifth and one fourth seems prudent, however. Additionally food is smoked, salted, and otherwise preserved ahead of winter. Coastal communities depend on fish, although even in winter ice fishing is common on the rivers and Long Lake. Poor harvests before winter will mean famine, however.
In winter, snows can fall forty feet deep. Rain falls cold and hard, and sometimes turns into hail that can send men running for cover and ruin crops. Even during summer, snowfalls are not unusual but tend to be brief and not particularly damaging to agriculture.
As the North is largely uncultivated, there are few roads of import there. Most of the trade inland passes either by Kings Road or the rivers. Wool is one trade item from the North. There are silversmiths at White Harbor.
The peoples of the North are nearly all descended from the First Men, who settled the land nearly 12,000 years ago. Little is known of that time, but cryptic runes carved in old stones and the barrows the First Men lived in can still be found in the Barrowlands.
About 8000 years ago, the Long Night occurred, when the Others invaded, an event that defined and shaped the North, leading to the founding of the Wall, the order of the Night's Watch, the castle of Winterfell and the first Stark Kings.